A fire that engulfed a small, predominantly black church in Charlotte was set on purpose, local officials said Wednesday. Now they are trying to determine whether the act of arson was a hate crime.
“Shock. Disbelief,” co-Pastor Rhonda Kinsey told Time Warner Cable News. “You hear about it, but you never imagine you would have a fire at your church.”
The 911 call came in just before 1 a.m. on Wednesday, an urgent report from a resident of a nearby apartment complex.
“Briar Creek Road, the Baptist Church at Briar Creek Road … it’s on fire,” the caller said. “It’s really big.”
Within half an hour, more than 75 firefighters had responded to the three-alarm blaze. Flames leaped through the roof of the church complex’s central building, and smoke billowed into the darkness. Coupled with the already feverish temperatures of a North Carolina summer, the heat from the fire was overpowering.